little things people don't know they notice
Two years ago, the owner of my barre studio asked if I was interested in becoming a barre instructor. I was a few months in, but it was clear that I was enjoying the workout and understood the philosophy. Right away, I naturally managed to strip out the grace and 'ballet' part of the class, and turned it into execution of just squats. For those of you aren't familiar with barre (pronounced 'bar'), imagine a predominately female exercise class (except for a few genius men) of planks, lunges, squats, pushups, and pink hand weights.
A few months later, I happened to attend the class of one of the newer instructors, who also was an old friend of mine. During the class I saw the owner cross-legged in the corner of the room, furiously scribbling notes. When she reached over for that second piece of paper, I remember I started to feel nervous. The owner (she co-owns the studio with her husband) is a 5'2 extremely focused and toned woman, with maybe 5% body fat - and is extremely good at what she does. She's one of those women who loves everyone, but (I imagine) that if you cross her somehow - you are completely screwed. All 115 pounds of her will get on your ass, until you do it right.
So as you can imagine she is able to run a fantastic exercise studio, as she is able to ignite a healthy combination of both inspiration and fear.
Since I was still thinking about becoming a barre instructor, she encouraged me to stick around after my friend's class for a few minutes. It ended up being the feedback sessions for my friend's class, where I learned what seemed to be the secret sauce to her success. I ended up learning that everything that I loved about the class was done intentionally. Also, everything that I didn't realize that I loved was also done intentionally.
Keep in mind, that when you're starting something new, your focus is to remember the moves and the words. In this situation, play the right music, don't deviate from the choreography, and try not to run over. I was astonished at her attention to deal and her desire to teach perfection. This is what I remember of the feedback she gave him.
- While people are standing facing the mirror, use the time to smile and make eye contact with the people in the class to make them feel included and noticed.
- Walk around the room and introduce yourself to the new clients. Ask them what their name is so they feel welcome.
- Use this time to bring everyone mentally into the class, to focus.
- Always start the warm-up with people standing.
- Watch your tone. "Your voice naturally goes down, and it's hard to motivate people when you sound angry."
- Queue them with your voice (not necessarily with volume), as well as with your words.
- Describing exactly what you want them to do - "Up an inch, down an inch".
- The final countdown is just a final push for people to hold their position for a few extra seconds.
- It takes people 3-4 rounds to understand what to do. This means the setup should be longer than four rounds before changing to the next routine.
- The choreography should flow from one exercise to the next.
- The 'seat' (butt) work is supposed to be the hardest, and thus it is purposefully put at the end of the class as the 'climax' of the class before the last push and then the cool down.
- Cool Down
- People should be either sitting or lying down. Physically low to the ground.
- Turn off the lights and change the tone of your voice
The fact that I remember this two years later is a little disturbing. A similar idea came up later in a work context, when the Disney Institute shared their coined term "overmanaging". Note that this is different from micromanaging, but instead is a proactive intentional approach toward things to preempt issues.
Our goal: be intentional where others are unintentional. Overmanaging the things most companies ignore or undermanage is what differentiates us.
This theme seemed to keep coming up, and then I started thinking if I could apply this to my personal life. Just the notion of being intentional and thoughtful, and how all of these little pieces add up and do make a difference as part of this larger thing. But it has to be authentic, or else it comes out as inconsistent therefore disingenuous.
If I were given an hour to spend with a close friend, how could I make it memorable or positive. If you were organizing a trip, how could you make it the smoothest possible operation. Maybe purposefully put your phone away. Maybe offer to pick someone up so that you could have a little more 1:1 time with them during the commute before meeting everyone else. This requires some additional planning and creativity, and there are obvious times when sometimes things are left better less planned.
At least I'd like to think that people notice the detail, or at least notice when that something isn't there anymore. It's like you rarely notice when someone says good morning to you every morning - as it becomes normal. But maybe eventually you'd notice if it stopped.
However I seem to be at this point in life where a.) I am going on faith that things around me happen for a reason, so perhaps I'm over-indexing in this area and b.) I could really benefit from something just - working out.
So make time to be intentional and craft this journey - this experience - for yourself and those around you, with the hope that everyone feels like they matter. Feels connected.